How to Clean Canvas Shoes and Sneakers

Canvas shoes are great, but they can be a challenge to clean. This is a step by step guide on how to clean canvas shoes and sneakers so they look good as new, and how to keep them clean.

Clean canvas shoes on wooden floor

These shoes make such a great casual footwear option. But their porous material means that they can easily collect dirt, stains, and even mildew over time. This can leave them looking shabby and worn-out.

Worse, sometimes the dirt gets so embedded in the fibers that simply throwing them in the washing machine isn’t going to remove all the stains. So how do you get them back to their original color and cleanliness again?

Can You Machine Wash Canvas Shoes?

Yes, canvas shoes can generally be machine washed. Note that some canvas shoes may not be suitable for machine washing, so it’s always best to check the care label on your specific pair of shoes before proceeding with cleaning them in this manner.

How to Clean Them in the Washing Machine

  • Remove any excess dirt or grime from the shoes before washing. Especially any dirt caked into the soles.
  • Put the shoes in with a couple of towels so they won’t be banging loudly during the wash.
  • Use a gentle detergent and set the machine to a delicate cycle with cold water.
  • Once the cycle is completed, remove the shoes from the washer. 
  • Do not put them in the dryer. Let them air dry.

Do Your Canvas Shoes Need a Hand Wash?

Sometimes they’re too dirty for the washing machine. If they’re stained, they’ll need to be pre-treated if not hand-washed.

Take a look at the shoes in question. Examine them for any damage, such as tears, holes or loose stitching. If your shoes are in poor condition, the washing machine could make it worse.

Next, check for any stains or discoloration on the fabric. If they’re in good shape with only a few small stains, you can either pre-treat the stains and put them through the washer, or you can spot clean them by hand.

You also need to know if the shoes are treated with any special coatings or finishes. Some canvas shoes have waterproof coatings or scuff-resistant finishes that need special care during cleaning. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for guidance on how to clean these types of shoes.

If you don’t have those instructions, try to look up your brand of shoes online and see what the manufacturer’s website says.

Ways to Clean Canvas Shoes and Sneakers By Hand

When your shoes need a hand cleaning, you have a couple of options. You can either purchase a commercial shoe cleaner or make your own solution with household items.

Dish Liquid Solution

Mix a tablespoon of dishwashing detergent or laundry detergent with warm water in a bowl. Scrub the solution on with a cloth or soft bristled brush, concentrating on stained areas. 

Baking Soda Paste

Combine baking soda and water until it gets a paste texture. Apply it on the affected areas and let it sit for 30 minutes.

Then scrub the stains with a soft-bristled brush gently. An old toothbrush is perfect.

After you’re done cleaning, rinse the shoes with clean water and let them dry thoroughly before wearing them again.

Bleach for White Canvas Shoes

The above tips will work for any color canvas shoes. But if your shoes are white, you have an extra tool to use: bleach.

Oddly, too much bleach can actually stain canvas and turn it to a yellowish color. Be sure to

  • Dilute the with at least 7x as much water. Say, 1 teaspoon of bleach to 7 teaspoons of water.
  • Dip a toothbrush in the bleach solution.
  • Scrub the stained areas on the shoes gently.
  • Wipe them down with a rag and warm clean water.
  • Let them air dry.

Some people recommend diluting the bleach so it’s 10:1 water to bleach. If you want to play it safe, this is fine. At worst, it might mean it takes you a little longer to clean the shoes, but at least you won’t end up with bleach stains.

How to Remove Bleach Stains from White Canvas Shoes

If you already bleached your shoes and got yellow stains on them, they can still be fixed.

  • Pour very hot water into a bowl. Not boiling, just your hottest tap water.
  • Add a tablespoon of regular table salt to the water, stirring to dissolve it.
  • Use this solution with a toothbrush to scrub the stain. Be warned: it takes a few minutes. You may have to let the shoes dry for a while and then start again after a few minutes.
  • When you’re done, clean them with a cloth dipped in water and let them air dry.

Clean the Soles and Rubber Sides with a Magic Eraser

You can take a damp Magic Eraser to dirt and scuff marks on the rubber soles and parts of your canvas shoes. 

Tackling Tough Stains with Household Items

Some stains and dirt marks may be tougher to remove than others, which is why it helps to know how to tackle them using household items.

If your canvas shoes have oil stains, use some baby powder or talcum powder on the affected area. Leave the powder on overnight before brushing it off with a clean brush in the morning.

For ink stains, try using rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or swab and gently dabbing at the stain until it fades away.

By using simple household items like baking soda, baby powder, or rubbing alcohol, you can effectively remove tough stains from your canvas shoes without damaging them.

Dealing with Mildew

If you have mildew on your canvas shoes, it’s time for the cleaning magic of vinegar. Mildew can cause an unpleasant smell and damage the fabric of your shoes. Before cleaning, take your canvas shoes outside to shake off any loose dirt and debris.

Make your cleaning solution by mixing equal parts of water and white vinegar in a bowl. Dip an old toothbrush into the solution and gently scrub the affected areas of your shoes.

Let the solution to sit for 15-20 minutes before rinsing with cold water. Don’t use hot water, as it can cause shrinkage or damage to the glue that holds your shoes together.

If mildew remains after cleaning, repeat these steps until it is gone. Once you have gotten your shoes clean, let them dry them completely before wearing them again.

Always Air Dry Your Canvas Shoes

After cleaning your canvas shoes, it is essential to dry them properly to prevent any further damage. Leaving them out in the sun or using a heating source may cause shrinkage or discoloration. Instead, follow these simple steps:

  1. Remove excess moisture by gently dabbing your shoes with a clean, dry towel.
  2. Stuff your shoes with crumpled balls of newspaper or paper towels. This will help absorb any remaining moisture and help your shoes maintain their shape while drying.
  3. Avoid leaving your shoes in direct sunlight or using heat sources such as hair dryers or radiators.
  4. Allow your shoes to air dry naturally in a well-ventilated area for 24 hours. If they are not completely dry after this time, replace the damp paper inside and leave to dry for another 24 hours.

Maintaining Your Canvas Shoes

After cleaning your canvas shoes, there are some steps you can take to maintain their appearance and prolong their lifespan. 

Protect them from future stains and dirt by applying a water and stain repellent spray. This will create a protective barrier that can help prevent future stains from setting in.

Store your canvas shoes properly. Instead, keep them in a cool, dry place away from moisture and humidity.

If you wear your these shoes frequently, consider investing in an additional pair or two to rotate through. Giving your shoes time to rest between wears can help prevent excessive wear and tear and extend their overall lifespan.

Lastly, be gentle with your shoes when wearing and cleaning them. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that can damage the material. Instead, opt for gentle cleaners and soft brushes that won’t cause any harm.

Keep Those Shoes Clean

Knowing how to clean your canvas shoes effectively can extend the life of your footwear and keep them looking fresh. Taking care of your shoes not only saves you money in the long run but also helps reduce waste in our landfills.